I was serving as an obstetric registrar at Cloudnine Hospital, Jayanagar when I conceived my daughter. Here I was, an obstetrician, seeing everything I knew from the other side. This was the real deal. But for the many things that medical school teaches you, here’s one thing it doesn’t: Breastfeeding 101. It was the only department that I wasn’t prepared for, and evidently, neither was my brand-new baby daughter.
I delivered Manaswi at Cloudnine Hospital, Jayanagar, a hospital whose passages I had walked thousands of times before as a registrar. I had opted for an elective caesarean, primarily because I wanted my maternity leave to coincide with my baby’s birth. Consequently, I experienced no labour and when I look back, I can only presume that my body wasn’t prepared for its little resident to leave so soon.
Manaswi was a healthy baby whose appetite couldn’t be satiated with my limited supply of milk. I was producing too little, a realisation I made on the very first day of motherhood. The nurses who attended to me insisted that I turn to formula because my body couldn’t cater to the swelling nutritional needs of my baby. After much thought, I relented. I was exhausted and it was only the second day. What choice did I really have?
On the day of our discharge, Manaswi was put through a range of standard neonatal diagnostic tests. The result? Not so standard. Her bilirubin levels were just south of the accepted upper limit, an indicator of the potential appearance of jaundice. We were asked to revisit in five days.
Through the course of the following week, Manaswi remained lethargic and unresponsive. Her bilirubin levels stayed elevated and when we arrived for her appointment five days later at Cloudnine Kids’ Hospital, Jayanagar, she was immediately admitted for phototherapy treatment. I had always trusted in the potency of breast milk but this little episode only reinstated my belief. I promised myself, as I watched my baby recover, that I would never again turn to formula. I would trust my body to nourish and heal my child.
It was easier said than done, this decision. I sought medication to induce my milk flow and I scheduled regular consultations with Sister Ruth, the lead lactation consultant on Cloudnine. Over time, I built my body up to produce adequate milk for my baby. When Manaswi was six months old, I returned to work.
As obstetricians, we operate on six-hour shifts, so it was possible for me to work my schedule around Manaswi’s feeds. I would nurse her just before I left for the hospital and also express milk for her to be fed while I was away. Then, I would nurse her again upon my return from work.
Today, Manaswi is two-and-a-half years old and I continue to breastfeed her. She is a happy and healthy child, and I’d like to think that much of it has to do with the nourishment she has received since she was a newborn. There’s so much tethered to our nutritional intake; breast milk is the best gift I could ever have given her.
Must read- What Is The Importance Of Breastfeeding?
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